13th April 2024 – (Beijing) In the constantly shifting landscape of global economics, China emerges as a towering giant, its economic strength a formidable force that has continually confounded critics and doubters. 

It is within this context that Jose Vinals, the esteemed chairman of Standard Chartered Group, has lent his voice to the chorus of optimism surrounding China’s economic trajectory. In a recent interview with Xinhua, the esteemed banker expressed an unwavering confidence in the nation’s medium and long-term growth prospects, citing its remarkable 5.2 percent growth rate in 2023 as a testament to its resilience and the positive ripple effects it has had on the global economy.

Vinals’ words carry weight, for they are rooted not merely in conjecture but in the tangible successes of his institution’s China operations. Standard Chartered’s financial report for 2023 paints a resounding picture of triumph, with the bank’s onshore and offshore business in China yielding a staggering pre-tax profit of 1.3 billion U.S. dollars, a year-on-year income growth of 24 per cent – a figure that serves as an emphatic endorsement of China’s enduring economic might.

Yet, the bank’s China story extends far beyond mere numbers, for it is woven into the fabric of the nation’s burgeoning cross-border trade. The flourishing China-Middle East and China-ASEAN corridors have witnessed a remarkable 42 percent surge in revenue from China’s offshore activities, a testament to the country’s unwavering commitment to forging global economic ties and fostering mutually beneficial partnerships.

As Vinals looks ahead to 2024, his outlook is one of cautious optimism, tinged with a sense of anticipation for the myriad engines that will propel the continued growth of Standard Chartered’s China business. Chief among these is the internationalization of the renminbi, a strategic priority that has seen the bank provide a comprehensive suite of sophisticated financial products to support this pivotal process.

The Standard Chartered Renminbi Globalisation Index, a barometer of the Chinese currency’s ascendancy on the global stage, recorded a staggering 33.4 per cent growth rate in 2023 – the fastest since 2014. This upward trajectory, Vinals sagely observes, is intrinsically linked to the continued development of deep and liquid markets for renminbi-denominated assets, a process that he believes will ultimately benefit the world by ushering in a more balanced usage of international currencies.

Standard Chartered’s commitment to China’s economic renaissance extends far beyond rhetorical platitudes. The bank has pledged an investment of 300 million U.S. dollars in its China-related businesses from 2022 to 2024, a strategic allocation of resources that spans the realms of digitalisation, the renminbi’s globalisation, and the ever-burgeoning domain of wealth management.

Vinals’ candid admission that China is “one of the most strategic markets for Standard Chartered” is a resounding endorsement of the nation’s economic prowess and its pivotal role in shaping the global financial landscape. The bank’s unwavering dedication to supporting China’s further economic opening is a testament to the mutual benefits that arise from such partnerships, a symbiotic relationship that transcends borders and ideologies.

Yet, even as China’s economic might continues to soar, Vinals remains cognisant of the challenges that lie ahead. He acknowledges the importance of globalisation, not as a relic of a bygone era, but as a transitioning force, one that must adapt to the modern imperative of sustainability and inclusivity. In his sagacious words, “There is no global path to growth and prosperity without China, and the world needs China, and China needs the world.”

This sentiment echoes the very essence of China’s economic philosophy, a belief in the power of mutual cooperation and shared prosperity. For as the world grapples with the seismic shifts wrought by the pandemic and the ever-present spectre of geopolitical tensions, China’s unwavering commitment to forging global partnerships stands as a bulwark against the forces of isolationism and protectionism.

Indeed, China’s recent economic data paints a picture of resurgence and resilience, a harbinger of the nation’s unwavering determination to reclaim its mantle as a global economic powerhouse. The first quarter of 2024 saw China’s total imports and exports expand at the fastest pace in six quarters, surpassing the 10 trillion yuan ($1.38 trillion) mark for the first time during the same period, according to official data from the General Administration of Customs.

This surge, which saw exports increase by 4.9 per cent year-on-year and imports grow by 5 percent, has been hailed by Wang Lingjun, deputy head of the GAC, as a “solid foundation for achieving the goal of improvement in quality and stability in quantity.” China’s trade with the ASEAN bloc, a crucial economic partnership, witnessed a 6.4 per cent year-on-year growth, while exports to the United States, a market that has long been the subject of geopolitical tensions, rose by 2.1 per cent.

These figures are not mere statistics; they are the heartbeats of an economy that refuses to succumb to the weight of external pressures, a testament to the indomitable spirit of a nation that has long defied the naysayers and skeptics. As Hu Qimu, a deputy secretary-general of the digital-real economies integration Forum 50, astutely observed, China’s manufacturing industry and consumer economy are recovering, and the critical status of Chinese manufacturing and its supply chain in the global industrial chain remains unchanged.

Yet, even as China’s economic resurgence continues to gather momentum, the nation’s leaders remain acutely aware of the challenges that lie ahead. The 2024 growth target of “around 5 percent,” while ambitious, is a testament to Beijing’s unwavering commitment to shoring up confidence at home and dispelling international doubts about China’s prospects.

For industries such as the automobile trade, where dealers like He Bin have weathered the turbulence of a post-pandemic recovery, the road ahead is fraught with uncertainty. Yet, even in the face of declining business revenues and cautious consumer spending, there remains a glimmer of hope, a belief that Beijing’s pledge to stimulate growth will ultimately bear fruit.

In stark contrast, the burgeoning sectors of new energy and health services, represented by entrepreneurs like Lu Yiming, stand as beacons of optimism, harbingers of China’s transition towards a higher-quality economy. As demand for sophisticated healthcare services continues to surge, these industries serve as a testament to the nation’s unwavering commitment to innovation and economic diversification.

Beijing’s acknowledgment of the serious headwinds facing the world’s second-largest economy is not a capitulation but a rallying cry, a call to arms that has seen the nation reiterate its commitment to the 14th Five-Year Plan for 2021-25, a blueprint that aligns China’s growth potential with its economic aspirations.